“Star Force–devils!” – Leader Desslok
We were all expecting a showdown when we tuned into STAR BLAZERS that Thursday, coming on the heels of yesterday’s installment, and we got one–just not the one we tough was coming. Because although we hadn’t seen any sign of him for about a week, it was time for the Gamilon Leader Desslok to take his final bows, in a two-parter that very much solidified and defined his character and which became among the most beloved and best-remembered episodes in the saga.
As the episode begins, Prince Zordar and his cabinet are gazing longingly at Earth, a prize which is within their grasp at long last. They accelerate the Comet Empire, intending to land the great City-State upon the planet itself. Meanwhile, in space, the Star Force has left the Jupiter orbit, and can make a space warp. Wildstar tells the crew that they’ll attack as soon as the warp is completed, so that they have the advantage of surprise. But other eyes are watching the Star Force as well–the Gamilon fleet has located their objective.
As the warp is completed (with the ship reappearing in front of the supposedly-destroyed moon no less), the Star Force is surprised to see that the Comet Empire has moved, and that they’ll need to race to pursue it towards Earth. But before they can do so, Gamilon planes warp into position all around the Argo, and a familiar, taunting voice addresses them through their communications system. “Did I surprise you? I missed you. For a time I was afraid the Comet Empire had gotten you. If they had, I don’t know what I would have done. You’ve become an important part of my life. I’m glad to see you–delighted to see you!” Wildstar attempts to convince Desslok to hold off on his attack because Earth is in jeopardy, but the Gamilon leader tells him that he doesn’t care about either Earth or the Comet Empire–he just wants his revenge on the Star Force. And with that, Desslok’s bombers begin their assault on the Argo.
Sandor tells us that the Gamilons’ first volley destroys the Argo’s landing dock mechanism, and the Black Tigers will need to open it by hand. This is an add-in for STAR BLAZERS. In the original YAMATO 2, this seems to just be the way the dock is always opened, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in a high-tech ship like the Argo. So it’s a good edit. In any event, Desslok’s campaign is well-planned and deliberate. Before the Black Tigers can take off, he has his torpedo planes bomb the landing dock, making it impossible for the Black Tigers to launch.
The Argo is pounded by wave after wave of Gamilon planes, and lurches in space. “You see, Star Force, I do not joke. When Gamilon was destroyed, it left me with but one mission in life.” muses Desslok, seeing his enemy’s distress. the main Gamilon fleet moves in, surrounding the Argo on all sides. As the situation looks critical and the Argo takes more and more damage, Homer intercepts a message from Earth Defense Headquarters to the Comet Empire: “The Federal Government of Earth has accepted the terms of the unconditional surrender imposed by the Comet Empire. That’s it.“The Star Force is stunned and frustrated. “No, I won’t accept it!” thinks Wildstar to himself before giving is next order.
“Starboard ninety degrees–point us at Desslok’s ship!” Wildstar intends to use the Star Force’s trump card to get them out of this jam. As the Argo turns towards them, Desslok reveals to his aide General Talan that he’s prepared for this as well.” Yes, it’s an obvious tactic, isn’t it, Talan? They think they’re going to use their Wave-Motion Gun against us!” He orders his bombers to withdraw and instead begins to deploy space-mines. Meanwhile, the Comet Empire enters the Earth’s atmosphere, and Zordar is delighted to receive word of the Earth’s surrender.
As the Wave-Motion Gun begins its energy charge, Desslok uses his ship-warping capability to warp his space-mines into position around the Argo. As Wildstar prepares the countdown to fire, Sandor yells for him to stop! “Wildstar, wait! The mines are blocking the muzzle of our Wave-Motion Gun! If we fire the gun now, we’ll blow up the ship!“And Desslok appears on the video panel once more to taunt his opposition: “What’s stopping you? Fire it! Fire the gun! I’ve been most anxious to see what this great weapon of yours can do! So…fire the gun!”
The Gamilon fleet proceeds to use the Argo as target practice, bombarding it mercilessly. But Wildstar gets another idea. “A small warp. A small warp will bring us next to Desslok’s ship, for a hand-to-hand fight!” Venture thinks this will set off the mines that are surrounding them, but Sandor tells him, “Let’s try it. It’ll work. When we warp, our energy will carry the mines right back to Desslok’s ship. I’ve been watching them, and none of the explosions near them have set them off. I think they’re all controlled by some mechanism in Desslok’s flagship–and when they’re right next to him, he won’t blow them up!“
Wildstar assembles the space marines and Black Tiger crews as well as the regular Star Force troopers as a boarding party in the Wave-Motion Gun room. Meanwhile, having had enough fun, Desslok prepares to finish of the Star Force with his own Desslok Gun. It’s another one of those simultaneous countdowns that the series likes so much. In this case, Desslok fires just as the Star Force begins its warp–and the resulting explosion of the space-mines lights up the area, making it impossible to know what has just happened.
As the explosions fade, Desslok and Talan are horrified to see the Argo barreling down upon them, and as quickly as Talan calls for evasive action, it is too late–the Star Force T-Bones his flagship and te space marines begin their boarding procedures. Talan leads the Gamilon crew in attempting to repel the boarders, but Wildstar and the Star Force troops enter Desslok’s ship through the demolished Wave-Motion Gun, opening up a second front.
Up on the deck of the Argo, Doctor Sane and Nova are almost strafed by enemy fire, and Mark Venture hurls himself to their defense. But he’s caught in the explosions and seemingly killed, his body floating away into airless space. STAR BLAZERS edits this scene way down, of course, because of the violence, but it can’t sidestep the issue in this case as it’s a major plot point. Nova is horrified that Venture has given his life for her. Meanwhile, Wildstar and Conroy are caught in the explosion of a bulkhead within Desslok’s flagship, and Wildstar is wounded and separated from the others. (For those keeping score, this is the second time in two days that Wildstar’s been almost fatally wounded. Lucky that 23rd century medicine is so good.)
The wounded Wildstar and the shell-shocked Nova both make their way individually to the same place: the bridge of Desslok’s ship. There, Talan is attempting to convince his Leader that the damage to the engine makes it unsafe for them to remain on board. “We’ll transfer to Carrier number one, and you can command from there! Leader Desslok–you’ve won! And the Star Force is helpless! There’s no need to stay–why won’t you go? The battle’s over! There’s nothing to stay for! Let’s go!” But before they can make their withdrawal, they are confronted by Wildstar, his weapon drawn.
Meanwhile, on Earth, before the horrified eyes of the human population, the Comet Empire makes touchdown in the sea next to the capital city, flooding the nearby coast. STAR BLAZERS makes a very interesting choice here. In the original YAMATO 2 episode, there’s narration all throughout this sequence and the wrap-up. But STAR BLAZERS goes entirely silent for about the last minute of the episode, allowing the visuals and the music to convey the emotion of the scene. It’s a very strong choice, and leaves no doubt as to where the stakes are. The Earth is lost unless Wildstar can somehow defeat Desslok and his forces and get back in time to engage the Comet Empire. And time is not on the Star Force’s side.